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Golden Knights, Sports Betting, and Customer Segmentation

Golden Knights

Las Vegas has never been one to shy away from a challenge. It’s reinvented itself time and time again, seamlessly evolving from a sleepy oasis in the desert to a gambler’s Shangri La, an entertainment hub for families and now the proud home of a major professional sports team — and soon to be two.

Along the way, the city has always thrived on its ability to know what makes people tick, what they’re passionate about and to keep them wanting more. Las Vegas is a town that knows its customers, takes pride in catering to their interests and won’t be stopping anytime soon.

In fact, the success of the city’s first NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights, perfectly encapsulates everything the town is about. Despite the blistering heat outside, a game played on ice of all things has captured imaginations and revealed a citywide zeal that was waiting for the opportunity to make its grand entrance.

Despite 500 to 1 odds of winning the finals at the start of the season — a $10,000 payout on a $20 wager for those counting — the Golden Knights are a handful of wins from the ultimate goal and the city can’t get enough. Once again, Las Vegas has managed to reinvent itself and the world — the casino industry in particular — is standing up and taking notice.

Change Is On the Horizon

The astounding success enjoyed by the Golden Knights in their first season provides an ideal metaphor for the changes staring the gaming industry square in the face. Thanks to sweeping changes that started in Washington, D.C., that industry faces inevitable change driven by sports betting, with each state soon to have free reign to decide how much to embrace it — a change approved of by 55 percent of Americans.

The sports fanaticism that is taking Las Vegas by storm thanks to hockey fever already has deep roots throughout the nation. As sports betting inevitably grows in popularity due to the loosening of federal shackles, casinos must prepare for this rapidly expanding segment or quickly lose market share and, ultimately, financial viability. If casinos don’t quickly get to know this new segment and tailor their message to maximize appeal and engagement, they risk watching Nevada’s $4.9 billion legal sports betting market find closer, more convenient shores.

Target and Motivate This Emerging Market

For casinos to prosper with this expanding customer segment, they must fully understand their unique set of affinities. After all, while sports betting might share some specific characteristics with traditional casino gambling, there are some critical differences as well. First and foremost is the size of the market. Conservative estimates put the total annual revenue from all sources of sports wagering between $50 billion and $60 billion, the vast majority of that taking the form of illegal betting. For comparison, casino gambling revenue was estimated to be a bit above $40 billion.

With casino gambling being a mature industry and legal sports betting in its infancy stage, it’s fair to assume that casinos stand to significantly expand revenues if they are able to capture the sports betting segment successfully. To do so, casinos need to embrace the sports statistics apps that have become so popular with the segment, integrating such technology into their own apps to create a useful, seamless experience for the sports betting customers.

Also, with 45 percent of self-professed avid sports fans betting on games within the last year, casinos should refocus their marketing strategies to engage this critical and growing segment.  Between email subscriptions, free money promotions for downloading an app, comped services when betting onsite and consistent social media messages, casinos can ingratiate themselves with a customer segment that will likely be a growth driver for years to come.

Lastly, understanding the fundamental differences between the two segments — sports gamblers and casino gamblers — will help brands create customized marketing strategies that engage each without sacrificing impact. Most of those differences lie in the games played, with the sporting segment relying on information of teams, players, injuries, and match-ups.  Alternatively, casino gamblers rely on skill honed over repetition, both from a statistical perspective — playing the odds — as well as gamesmanship and the ability to read other players.

From a marketing angle, sports gamblers want favorable odds on games, ample and easily-navigated information that is immediate and pertinent to their needs, fast payouts, and an even playing field. Anything short of these fails to live up to expectations and will lead sports gamblers to different brands.

Alternatively, casino gamblers want to feel like whales, even if they're a far cry from that rarified air. Assorted perks and comps, house money, tickets to buffets, discounted shows, and a host of other benefits attract the type of gambler casinos want — lower in skill but ready and willing to open their wallets and purses. Like the sports gambling segment, a marketing strategy that fails to make the average casino gambler feel special is essentially driving them to the competition.